BY ALI PETER JOHN
I am fortune to be a witness to some of the most unusual success stories during the last 40 years and Kangana Ranaut, the girl who came down the hills of Himachal Pradesh to stake her claim in Hindi films is certainly one of the most unusual of all of them because I have been lucky to watch her take her first faltering steps when she was living as an unknown paying guest in a building called Jubilee Mansion which was bang opposite my house, where she became known after she had regular squabbles with her handsome married beau Aditya Pancholi who used to visit her very night and create ugly scenes by abusing her and sometimes even manhandling her in the most insulting ways a human being could, till she had to finally leave the place.
She had the talent enough to grab the attention of filmmakers like Mahesh Bhatt and his team of young disciples who found her good enough to give her breaks in controversial films like “Gangster” “Woh Lamhe”. The film had shocking scenes which she had to do if she had to continue her struggle to make it big and there were times when she was set to be humiliated in the most horrible ways by even an enlightened director like Mahesh Bhatt who once is even said to have thrown his slipper at her. She tolerated all this in the hope of being noticed by other directors who she felt would give her better work which would help her rise and grow as a better actress and may be even grow into a star.
She was not wrong in judging herself when she found meaty roles in Madhur Bhandarkar’s “Fashion” in which she played a failed model, for which she won the National Award for the best supporting actor and continued her good work in the films she did that followed. She also had the privilege of winning some of the major awards for all the roles she played and filmmakers were inspired or forced to take her seriously.
However, she took one wrong step when she played some kind of a negative role in Rakesh Roshan’s “Krissh sequels” which seemed to harm her more than did any good to her. What was worse was that she faced a major personal upheaval in her life when there was talk rampant about a hectic affair between her and Hrithik Roshan which did not create so much of a ruckus when it was supposed to happen, but much later when Kangana decided to open what many called a tin of worms in the media and sliced and cut the Greek God of a hero into mincemeat to the delight of the audience listening to her and the fallout of her tearing him to pieces.
That was not all. Kangana turned into a major star on her own with films like “Queen” which was and still is the biggest hit and cult film of her career, followed by “Tanu Weds Manu” and “Tanu Weds Manu Sequels”, “Katti Batti”, “Simran” and “Manikarnika”. She had the courage and the confidence to make all this film all on her own terms and on her own conditions.
This was the time when she decided to take on the industry for all that she believed was wrong in it. She lashed out at the star system, she tore into the kind of nepotism that was blatantly being practiced in the industry and she lampooned the Khans, the Kumars and the Karan Johars of the industry. The industry which was livid with anger against this chit of a girl who was going all out to give it a bad name was in a mood to boycott her and look for ways on how to punish her by not casting her in the routine films and even the multi-starrers and the films made with other semistars and media made stars had to stand and watch as she found her own ways of finding film makers from the South and even Mumbai who were ever willing to walk her way to make films the way she wanted to make films, without following the rules of the big time filmmaker who were according to her only busy making flops or films that made no sense in any way.
At a time when almost everyone was trying to wipe her out and are still trying to that desperately (or is it cowardly?) Kangana has some of the most ambitious films lined up for release in 2020. The first among them, “Panga” has just been released. It would not be wrong to say that it is an all-Kangana film with all the other actors in it being good actors who are not necessarily stars or big stars. The film had a slow opening, but the reviews have been highly encouraging which have led to all the multiplexes running to full houses and Kangana being applauded like very few young actresses of today have been. The coincidence may be a surprise, but it is certainly not undeserving. The release of “Panga” and the Government’s announcement of conferring her with the Padmashri, the fourth highest Civilian Award of the country came on the same day, January 24 and Kangana who was naturally overjoyed to receive the award at 32 said, she was dedicating her award to every woman, every mother, every daughter, every sister, every girl in the country whose duty it was to shape the destiny of the country.
As the news of her being decorated to the Padmashri seeps in, there are some of her critics who believe that she was selected for the award by this Government because of late, she has been siding with the policies of the Government in power and even castigating her colleagues in the industry for being silent and the major issues of the CAA, CAB and NRC. Some leading stars are even saying that it was Deepika Padukone who deserved the Padmashri more than her for making her 3 minute silence of standing in solidarity with the protesting students at the JNU was more powerful than all the noise made by Kangana. And there are other cynics who say that there are so many others in the industry who deserved the Padmashri and Kangana could still wait for her chance to shine in the Indian sun.
For those who are not yet aware, 2020 will see a lot more of Kangana as an actress in different shades. “Panga” has just become a part of history. Then there is a film called “Tejas” being produced by Ronnie Screwala in which she will be playing an Indian Air Force pilot. She will also be seen as a brave woman in a film called “Dhaadak” and above all, there is the biopic on the actress turned politician of Tamil Nadu, Ms. Jayalatitha in which she plays the title role and for which she has put on wait and learned Tamil and bharatanatyam. The film is called “Thalaivi”. The actress who has almost been boycotted by the industry in Mumbai is ironically the busiest actress working in Hindi films, which only shows that pettiness, jealousies and rivalries and politics don’t matter at all, ONLY PURE TALENT MATTERS, TALENT LIKE THE TALENT OF PADMASHRI KANGANA RANAUT.
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